The 2021-22 budget for the Waterville Central School District will require passage by 60 percent of those who turn out to vote.
At last week’s WCS Board of Education meeting, some of the final figures for the spending plan fell into place. While nothing is final until the Board adopts the budget by next month’s deadline, a newly-formed Budget Committee with three board members has been working closely with the administration to find solutions.
The biggest hurdle has been how to work around the tax cap formula that limits WCS to adding just one-tenth of a percent to its tax levy next year. Even though the full budget will show less than 1 percent growth, Business Administrator Tracy Leone said there is still a deficit of $67,000 between projected expenses and revenues.
Another obstacle is for the district to close that gap for a balanced budget without using its savings. An audit this year was critical because WCS’s fund balance had fallen to 2 percent, below the recommended 4 percent.
Leone, WCS Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Spring and Board member Russell Stewart, a member of the Budget Committee, outlined to the Board the steps taken so far to get the spending gap from six figures to $67,000. Those include:
*Leaving vacant for next year five teaching positions that were not filled this year in Math, English, Science, Technology and Special Ed.
Doing this, Spring said, allows for this year’s academic programs and electives to stay in place and to keep the district on the path to right-sizing staff to enrollment.
*Reduce a support staff position with a change in the student need.
*Continue next year as the last year in phasing out French as a language offering.
*Continue using the Oneida County program of School Resource Officer in the two buildings, which the county funds 50 percent. Officers are hired through the county’s Probation Department.
It’s a less costly program, and comes with county funding, than the similar Special Patrol Officer option. Spring said WCS is one of the few districts in Oneida County using the SRO program.
While additional measures will be needed to eliminate the $67,000 gap, Leone advised waiting until after the state budget is adopted April 1. That will give the district its locked in state aid for 2021-22.
Additional reductions have been identified, Spring and Leone said, and those will have an impact on the academic program. Those were not identified.
In addition, the tax levy increase was set at 2.5 percent, which, because it is over one-tenth of a percent, requires the super majority of 60 percent approval. Going up 2.5 percent increases the levy around $137,000 to be shared among all taxpayers.
Board president Steve Stanton said the 60 percent vote is necessary. “There is no other way,’’ he said.
While the federal government has pledged to provide funding to help schools with costs of the pandemic, Leone said what that will look like is unknown. Questions include if the federal money will replace state aid, so there is no additional money to spend, whether the aid qualifies for reimbursement and over how many years it can be spent.
“Are there going to be categories attached?” Leone said. “It’s frustrating.’’
Although Board members gave informal go-ahead for the Budget Committee to continue to craft a budget under the 2.5 percent tax levy increase, Board member Tim…